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Coming to America:
Immigration Builds a Nation


Lesson Planning ChannelThe story of immigration is inseparable from this country's history. Discover the United States all over again as you introduce your students to the two major waves of immigration that brought 34 million people to our nation's shores and spurred the greatest period of national change and growth.

All Americans, with the exception of Native American, are descended from immigrants. The greatest number of immigrants -- more than 34 million -- arrived in the United States during the 100 years preceding 1924, when new legislation closed the country's relatively wide-open door.

The first major wave of immigration after 1824 consisted primarily of northern Europeans from Ireland, Great Britain, Germany, and Scandinavia. The second wave of immigrants -- mainly from southern and eastern Europe -- arrived between 1890 and 1924.

The story of those years and those immigrants is also the story of our country's growth. Introduce that story to your students with today's Education World activities. Click any headline below for a complete teaching resource. (Notations in parentheses indicate approximate grade levels for each activity.)

You might begin by asking students to reflect on four quotes that relate to the topic of immigration. Click here to read those quotes.

Triangles Are Not Bad!
Students read aloud or dramatize a play in which a variety of shapes isolate themselves from one another as they proclaim their individual superiority. (Grades K-5)

A Tenement Treasure Hunt
Students complete an online scavenger hunt about tenement life around the turn of the century. (3-5)

A Virtual Voyage
Students make a virtual voyage across the Atlantic Ocean in 1914 and write a diary entry about the trip. (6-12)

Sighting the Statue of Liberty
Students create an original artistic rendering of the Statue of Liberty. (3-12)

Immigrant Arrivals
Students create a multimedia presentation comparing the experiences of immigrants who arrived at Ellis Island with the experiences of those who arrived at Angel Island. (6-12)

An Immigration Graph
Students create a graph showing the number of immigrants per country of origin between 1899 and 1924. (6-12)

Create a Pedigree Chart
Students make a pedigree chart showing lines of descent from one or both sides of a family. (6-12)

An Immigrant Story
Students write biographies of immigrants who made significant contributions to their adopted country. (3-12)

The Immigration Today WebQuest
Students complete a WebQuest about the political and economic implications of immigration. (6-12)


The following Web sites provide a variety of current information about immigration and naturalization.

U.S. Immigration Levels by Decade
This table shows the number of American immigrants per decade from 1921 to 1997.

Immigration and Immigrants Setting the Record Straight
The Urban Institute presents this report on recent immigration goals and policies. The report includes some historical data.'s Ellis Island Exhibit

Ellis Island Photo Album

An Interactive Tour of Ellis Island

Ellis Island National Monument: History and Culture

They Are Not Like Us: Teaching About Biases Against Immigration
This activity helps students explore xenophobic attitudes and the contributions immigrants have made to U.S. society.

Linda Starr
Education World®
Copyright © 2009 Education World

Originally published 10/02/2000
Last updated 12/29/2009